By: Skip Knowles
Habitat Flats Teal 2
Why would you hunt ducks with a 28 gauge, especially teal, the hardest of perhaps all birds to hit? Particularly when it will add to the stress of hitting your targets in front of a television crew? Because you’re using HEVI-Shot®, that’s why.
I had little experience with the true, original, high-priced tungsten loads, though we have hunted for years with every other product from the company, which are more in line with the price range WILDFOWL readers are comfortable with.
But from what I was hearing, I figured we could pretty much count on a 28 gauge with original HEVI-Shot® loads probably being more lethal than a 20 with standard steel shot and probably as good as some of the lighter 12 gauge steel loads. My working-man turkey hunting buddies down south, where bad backs come before gray hair, were switching to light 20 gauge autoloaders to crush toms out to 40 yards because HEVI-Shot® was so deadly it single-handedly had made the 20 gauge a grown-up’s turkey killer, not just a gun for kids.
A bold statement, but we would have a chance to back it up on the ducks before it was over. And I had one of my big gun crushes going on a sweet little firearm. After burning thousands of rounds on doves in Argentina, I’d learned the the 28 gauge Beretta A400 autoloaders are simply a lot of fun. Not only are the lovely little guns more lethal than you’d think, they are a delight to carry, swing effortlessly on birds and nothing to hoist in the blind all day. They point like a band conductor’s wand and have no recoil to speak of.
Still, ducks are notoriously tough to kill with steel shot, which begat the invention of the 3.5-inch 12 gauge so even with HEVI-Shot®, I was mildly apprehensive.
So it was off to Habitat Flats in north central Missouri with a few cases of HEVI-Shot® #5s to film an early teal show for World of Beretta with duck hunting superhero Tony Vandemore. Tony has put together one of the best waterfowl operations the planet has seen, and farms thousands of acres all year specifically to tailor habitat, crops and water flows strictly for ducks and geese.
Still, weather is a huge factor regardless of habitat, and gross muggy, buggy, Midwest heat looked like it would suffocate our efforts as dawn broke over the marsh. Giant spiders crawled over turtles in the bottom of the pit, as we looked to the sky over a little two-acre wetland pond Tony had cut from a millet field.
The bad news was that there were just not a lot of birds around. The good news? The birds that were here wanted the spot in a bad way.
A pack of teal buzzed us, swung wide a few hundred yards in just a few seconds, and banked in for the finish. I had asked Tony if he thought we should attempt to use the 28 gauges for television, probably something that had never been done for waterfowl, and he was all for it. So we’d cased the “big guns”; an A400 20 and the new Beretta 20 gauge side by side (the Paralleleo). I had brought three 28s total, and we were about to find out what they could do. That first group swung through at 20 yard but refused to land. Tony murmured, “on this pass, guys” as he continued mouth calling, and we let the HEVI-Shot® fly.
Four birds splashed into the decoys, all hammer dead, so unlike what you get with steel shot. No need to waste precious shells swatting cripples.
I turned to Tony, grinning like a kid that had learned his new bike is incredibly easy to do show-off wheelies with.
“Well I guess that answer’s that.”
“Wow, no kidding,” he replied. “That was awesome.”
Tony called me out on a single shortly after, but I checked my swing trying to dodge the Mojos on the low-flying bird and missed clean. Aaron McCauley, part owner of Habitat Flats, had me covered and smacked the little blue-winged teal, killing it instantly.
A five pack buzzed through next and two were escaping to the right, flying like only shot-at teal can, when Tony made a real eye-popper hero shot. We lowered our guns as the birds got out of range but Tony kept swinging wide right and crunched a blue wing teal at honest 40-plus yards. When we found that bird it was dead as disco and had landed 60 yards away, carried by its own momentum.
The HEVI-Shot® 28 gauge experiment was a home run, and were all addicted to the little red shells, which Aaron described as “a box of Chiclets.” What I loved best? No cripples. We were all wowed. HEVI-Shot® had turned the toy sub-gauge shotguns into a stone cold duck killing machine. Everyone who shot the 28 vowed to get one pronto and were stoked to try it on greenheads in the timber.
“Man, I love it. Hits ’em like a hammer,” Tony said. Tony only hunts geese and ducks with a 20 gauge anymore most of the time, except for snows. We all knew what the 28 gauge would do on close-range mallards with HEVI-Shot® loads, and Tony later proved us completely right, dropping big ducks in the timber with the little A400s.
A few more flurries and we scored 14 teal for the morning. A grand kickoff to duck season. And a successful HEVI-Shot® experiment.
Habitat Flats Teal